H2 consumption during the microbial reductive dehalogenation of chlorinated phenols and tetrachloroethene*

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Competition for molecular hydrogen exists among hydrogen-utilizing microorganisms in anoxic environments, and evidence suggests that lower hydrogen concentrations are observed with more energetically favorable electron-accepting processes. The transfer of electrons to organochlorines via reductive dehalogenation reactions plays an important role in hydrogen dynamics in impacted systems. We studied the flux of aqueous hydrogen concentrations in methanogenic sediment microcosms prior to and during reductive dehalogenation of a variety of substituted chlorophenols (CP) and tetrachloroethene (perchloroethylene, PCE). Mean hydrogen concentrations during reductive dehalogenation of 2,4-CP, 2,3,4-CP, and PCP were 3.6 nM, 4.1 nM, and 0.34 nM, respectively. Sediment microcosms that were not dosed with chlorophenols yet were actively methanogenic maintained a significantly higher mean hydrogen concentration of 9.8 nM. During active PCE dehalogenation, sediment microcosms maintained a mean hydrogen concentration of 0.82 nM. These data indicate that during limiting hydrogen production, the threshold ecosystem hydrogen concentration is controlled by microbial populations that couple hydrogen oxidation to thermodynamically favorable electron accepting reactions, including reductive dehalogenation of chloroaromatic compounds. We also present revised estimates for the Gibbs free energy available from the reductive dehalogenation of a variety of substituted chlorophenols based on recently published values of vapor pressure, solubility, and pKa for these compounds.

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